It’s interesting to me that among the usual suspects, the Burgh Report, the Comet, Democrats for DeSantis, 2 Political Junkies, Matt H and Char, no one is saying anything about the debate tonight (as of 10:30). There is a collective deafening silence. Have we already reached debate fatigue? There is another coming, you know, Thursday.
One thing I think is worth mentioning. It was widely predicted, as I recall, that the Mayor would try to avoid debating DeSantis. Particularly there were predictions that the first two debates would be it (again, as I remember it). Certainly the Mayor has come through on debate participation, and deserves due credit.
Another point worth mentioning is that the assumption was the DeSantis would wipe the floor with the boy Mayor in the debates. Instead the Mayor has … (ahem) held his own and probably even beaten Desantis on style points. I still believe DeSantis is winning the war of content, if only just. But that’s a thing. Mark DeSantis has been a real candidate for less than a hundred days. Meeting sympathetic bloggers is no substitute for real campaigning. Working with employees (whom you can fire, but also who share a purpose with you) is no substitute for talking to voters you have to persuade. I am sure Desantis has made his share of presentations designed to persuade, but we expect something different from politicians than from businessmen. We expect politicians to be someone we can relate to, someone who wants to make us feel good about ourselves, and bad about the other guy.
But it is meaningless for me to say that DeSantis should be cut a break because he is in unfamiliar territory. It was up to him to demonstrate his commitment by getting out early to campaign. He chose to show character, but to the wrong audience (I guess wrapping up his business with his company as quickly as he could).
DeSantis has used the word humility a couple of times in the debate, as in what the Mayor lacks. It’s not a word I use much, if ever, in fact, it makes me a little uncomfortable for no apparent reason. I recognize that politicians, by necessity, usually have outsized egos and by extension thicker skins. It’s not clear with the Mayor; with his (extensive) use of the royal/editorial “we”, he seems to have the ego (why does he say “our administration” instead of “my administration”?). But I suspect the whole city has gotten a thinner skin impression from the Mayor.
The Mayor actually made a pretty crucial admission tonight. He said he had a sense he could keep a lot of his activities private when he started the job, but realizes now that isn’t so. As big as that admission is, the Mayor went on to say to Ken Rice something about the two of them agreeing to disagree about the significance of aspects of the Mayor’s behavior. That’s a little like a criminal telling a cop they should agree to disagree about the criminal’s little breaking and entering behavior. I personally believe the Mayor should follow what is in the ethics code as it is written, and if that means some sacrifice in not going to Steelers or Penguins games, you can watch them on TV like the rest of us. Because if I were Danny Schiff, I would want to see the Mayor’s credit card statements to make sure he hasn’t violated guidelines.
The terms I would use instead of humility are words like apologize and take responsibility. The Mayor has done some of that, but not for every incident, and quite frankly the Mayor gives off a simmering resentment and sense of impatience when he has been questioned about incidents. It is, again frankly, the resentment a bully gives off when caught bullying a smaller kid. If you would just see the world through my eyes, you would understand why you shouldn’t ask that question. And I shouldn’t have to explain.
Which is the whole point, I guess. Experienced politicians or natural politicians usually have the knack of understanding other people’s point of view, and slipping into an easy dialogue where they acknowledge a mistake and tell the other person they know how they were hurt and then the politician apologizes (and asks for their vote). I think even Mark DeSantis, in his hundred day career as a politician, understands that. I don’t think the Mayor does, and possibly never will.
One more quick point. I can’t remember if it was in response to Jon Delano’s question about local political experience, but as Mark DeSantis went through his resume, 14 years in DC in politics, 10 years in Pittsburgh as a businessman/entrepreneur, it occurred to me the man has been working almost as long as the Mayor has been alive. And has three more educational degrees than the Mayor.